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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Oxfam denies covering up sex worker scandal in earthquake hit Haiti

A British newspaper has claimed the world leading charity allowed three aid workers accused of using prostitutes in the country to resign

An earthquake in Haiti in 2010 left 220,000 dead and 1.5 million displaced. Alejandro Cegarra/ Bloomberg
An earthquake in Haiti in 2010 left 220,000 dead and 1.5 million displaced. Alejandro Cegarra/ Bloomberg

Oxfam, a world leading charity, has denied allegations that it covered up a scandal involving senior aid workers using prostitutes in poverty-stricken Haiti.

An investigation by British newspaper The Times found the charity, which is headquartered in Oxford, UK, allowed three men to resign and sacked four others, who had been accused of gross misconduct following an inquiry into sexual exploitation by aid workers.

Oxfam was one of several international organisations that led relief efforts after Haiti was struck by an earthquake in 2010, killing 220,000 people and leaving 1.5 million displaced.

The charity said it had compiled a report in 2011 after the sexual exploitation inquiry, which The Times said had concluded that children may have been abused by Oxfam staff.

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The newspaper said one of the men who had been allowed to resign was Oxfam’s country director for Haiti Roland van Hauwermeiren. Mr Van Hauwermeiren, 68, is said to have admitted in the investigation using prostitutes at an Oxfam-rented villa during his time in Haiti.

None of the accused from the report have faced any criminal charges.

Oxfam has denied the allegation it tried to cover up the reports and said allegations that underage girls were involved “were not proven”.

“This behaviour was totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff. As soon as we became aware of the allegations we immediately launched an internal investigation,” Oxfam said in a statement.

"The investigation and its outcome were publicly announced and we kept Oxfam Trustees, the Charity Commission and the DFID informed."

The charity added: "A number of staff were dismissed as a result of the investigation and others left the organisation before it was completed. The country director took full responsibility for events that took place under his management and was permitted to resign on the basis that he fully cooperated with and supported the investigation."

The Times quoted one unidentified source as saying that male Oxfam aid workers had invited young prostitutes to their guesthouse near the country’s capital Port-au-Prince for “sex parties”.

Oxfam said it did not report the allegations to the Haitian authorities because “it was extremely unlikely that any action would be taken”.

Prostitution is illegal in Haiti and paying for sex is against Oxfam’s staff code of conduct.